The three-man battle for the Indiana quarterback job has been at the forefront of offseason discussion around the program from the moment Jack Tuttle stepped on campus in January.
It’s a competition that puts IU in the same position it was this same time a year ago: three options all capable of starting, but uncertainty as to who would come out on top.
Peyton Ramsey won the battle last year, and is the incumbent starter heading into this year’s competition. Tuttle and Michael Penix are the two looking to unseat him.
As the starter last season, Ramsey threw for 2,875 yards and 19 touchdowns with 13 interceptions, averaging nearly 240 yards per game. He is the only quarterback on Indiana’s roster with the experience of playing in Columbus and Ann Arbor, two of the toughest road environments in the nation. Against Ohio State in Columbus, Ramsey threw for 322 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions.
.@IndianaFootball isn’t going anywhere. ?
Ramsey finds Hendershot for the slick score, and it’s 14-10 Buckeyes: pic.twitter.com/A226a8WDMr
— Indiana On BTN (@IndianaOnBTN) October 6, 2018
Ramsey was also the team’s second-leading rusher totaling 354 yards on the ground and five rushing touchdowns.
Should Peyton Ramsey be the starter come August 31 when IU opens against Ball State, the program knows exactly what it is getting. He’s played in 20 college games, something the other quarterbacks in Bloomington can’t offer. Ramsey got all of the 11-on-11 reps during the spring game and looked impressive.
Penix, however, appeared to unseat Ramsey as the starter with his performance against Penn State. Penix was impressive against a top team in Penn State, but an injury ended his game — and his season. After taking a hit while scrambling, Penix was diagnosed with a torn ACL, an injury that he is still working to recover from.
Penix brings the best rushing ability of the three quarterbacks, but his legs may come into question following the injury. Will he ever be the same rushing or scrambling? Penix didn’t participate in contact drills during spring practice and played in a 7-on-7 format spring game. In his limited playing time, Penix’s arm appeared to be just as strong as ever, but he was clearly not at 100% with his feet.
And then there’s Jack Tuttle. Tuttle transferred to IU after the 2018 season, a year in which he didn’t see the field with Utah. Had he come to Bloomington directly out of high school, Tuttle would be IU’s highest rated quarterback recruit ever.
Tuttle too had limited appearances in spring practice; not only did he not take many snaps with the starters, but he had to learn a new offensive system, nonetheless with new teammates. Tuttle didn’t play in the spring game due to illness and is a clear question mark coming into the season with undeniable talent, but limited chances to showcase it.
Speaking of a new offensive system, Kalen DeBoer is Indiana’s new offensive coordinator. All three quarterbacks have to learn his new system. Ramsey executed the system well during the spring game despite it not being fully installed yet. It’s a system that appeared to create much more space on the field, and thus simpler throws for the quarterbacks. Ramsey’s best throw of the game may have been a long touchdown pass over the middle to Ty Fryfogle.
Ramsey probably helped himself with his performance in spring football and makes sense as the starter against Ball State in August, given his experience. But this is a competition that could very well extend into the season and could be a talking point after each of the first few games.
Quarterback competitions have surrounded IU for the last two years. There are few more important questions to this football program than who will start at the most important position on the field.
That question won’t be answered any time soon.